In the Cut
review by KJ
Doughton, 3 October 2003
the Cut is a grungy murder mystery bathed in the yellowing,
unhealthy glow of jaundiced skin.
A sleazy cousin of Looking
for Mr. Goodbar, director Jane Campion’s thriller explores a
bored literature professor’s flirtations with sex and danger in
New York City.
And who more unlikely to escort us
through this crusty, Big Apple barrel bottom of strip clubs, bars,
and dreary apartments than America’s Sweetheart, Meg Ryan?
The screen’s favorite bright-eyed blonde has come to define
perkiness through her too-cute-for-words appearances in such light
comedy soufflés as Sleepless
in Seattle and You’ve
Got Mail. In a
startling re-invention both convincing and a little sad, Ryan
forever crushes her good-girl image by sauntering through In
the Cut sans pep, makeup, and – in many scenes – clothes.
The effect is a bit jarring, like walking in on Mary Poppins as
she’s stepping out of a shower.
the Cut introduces us to Franny Thorstin (Ryan), a lit
instructor in her late thirties who is infatuated with the written
word. Her eyes hunt
down snippets of poetry scrawled on a subway, and she even has a
mess of those trendy "word magnets" strewn across her
One evening, out for a beer with a
student at the Red Turtle Bar, Franny eyes two patrons doing the
nasty in a dark corner. In
an unlikely bit of superhuman observation, the teacher identifies
both a tiny, spade-shaped tattoo on the wrist of the male
"receiver," and blue fingernails on the female
"giver," even from several yards away and through hazy
Soon afterwards, Franny meets
Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a young police detective with a very blunt
style of wordplay. He alerts Franny to news that a killer is loose, one who
The last victim had blue fingernails. The killer was
accompanying her at the Red Turtle prior to the murder.
Meanwhile, Franny’s anxiety is notched up another level
when she notices the spade-shaped tattoo on Malloy’s wrist.
Is Malloy the
possibility isn’t enough to scare Franny off when the detective
asks her out. In fact,
she quickly invites him into her bed. Malloy might be a
disarticulator, but if so, he’s an articulate
disarticulator, which turns Franny on.
Soliloquies and stab-wounds, anyone?
the Cut stumbles into the same goofy limbo as other pretentious
films attempting to deal with the seductive pull of dangerous sex.
Films like Cruising, 9 ½ Weeks, Eyes Wide Shut, and Sea of Love. Director
Campion, who explored a similarly passion-drunk heroine in 1993’s The
Piano, seems intent on revealing that a night in the sack with a
Bad Boy is the ultimate female aphrodisiac. Could be. But even so,
would a smart, savvy New Yorker like Franny really throw all caution
to the wind for Ruffalo, who plays his hard-boiled Cassanova with
the sleaze-coated bravado of fellow smooth-talker Mickey Rourke?
"The only thing I won’t do is beat you up," this
considerate scuzzball promises.
He’s certainly not Tom Hanks.
Supporting characters, like a lit
student obsessed with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, serve no
purpose. Kevin Bacon stumbles in as Franny’s ex, a twitchy, scruffy,
dog-walking beach bum ready to go postal.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is along for the ride as the
professor’s slutty sister, suggesting to Franny that she should
date Malloy, "just for the exercise."
None of these backup characters are particularly interesting
or compelling, as they take up space on Franny’s downer of a joy
Ryan is game for the lead role,
appearing both hungry for escape and weary of life, like a
depressive passively stoned on Prozac.
Her light curls are replaced with straight brown locks. And
while Ryan’s elfin mouth still juts north at both corners, she
tries her best to look jaded, sullen, and melancholy.
In the end, however, In
the Cut is like a failed surgical procedure. Pieces don’t fit
where they’re supposed to, parts remain missing, and there’s a
sad deficit of vitality. Campion’s
no quack, but In the Cut is a confused, flatlined film.
Jennifer Jason Leigh
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult